Thursday, August 20, 2009

A series of unfortunate events - Part 1: Cairo Airport

The first thing that went wrong was my fault. I told the taxi driver to take me to terminal 2. I told him several times, in fact. About an hour later we arrived at terminal 2 and I got out and he drove away. No sooner had he done so I realized he had shorted me 20 LE making change for my 100 LE note and I was in the wrong terminal. I needed to be in Terminal 1. After having to let a few shuttle buses go past me because they were full, I finally made it to terminal 1. Good thing I had arrived at the airport more than 2 hours early. But as I entered the terminal I realized my plan to beat the crowd had been foiled by my mistake. The line to get to the Delta check-in counter was snaked all the way back to the metal detector.

I was about to pick up my one suitcase and put it on the belt when a guy grabbed it out of my hand and did it for me. Then he asked me to give him a tip. No, I don't think so. I'm not falling for that dude I'm not a tourist - I live here. And I was so happy to be getting a little reprieve from Egypt, that standing in a really long check-in line seemed like a small price to pay.

So I'm standing there minding my own business filling out my luggage tag at the back of the line, and a Delta employee approaches me and told me to follow him. He maneuvered me around the barricade and into the business class check-in area. I got my boarding passes in no time at all. My earlier error would not cost me that much time after all, and I would have time to relax over a 15 LE cup of coffee before boarding.

Once in the gate area things were looking up. I managed to get on the first shuttle bus to the plane. They had the front and back doors of the plane opened but everyone was boarding through the back. I was in row 24, right in the middle, so it did not matter to me. Either way I beat the crowd. I found row 24 and seat G. There was a teenage boy with a big guitar in the vicinity. I excused myself and sat down in my seat next to the big guitar. I put my bags under the seat, got out my pillow and my blanket and settled in for an 11 hour 59 minute flight. I still did not know if the kid was sitting next to me or just his guitar was, but i noticed many seats in my vicinity were empty. I knew that I couldn't have gotten that lucky when I realized the shuttle bus was on its was back to the gate area to pick up the second load of people.

I just sat there enjoying the peace and quiet for a few minutes. A woman came up beside me and asked if I was in seat 25G. No, I told her, I was in 24G. The teenage boy came and picked up his guitar and carried it to the front of the plane. He returned a few minutes later without it and sat down next to me. The second round of people began arriving from the terminal and the seats all around me began filling up. I was glad to already be settled into my seat and comfortable. It was 1:30 am and I was exhausted. I could not wait for the meal to be served so I could eat and then go to sleep for the duration of the flight. I was hoping to arrive in NY at 7 am with a good 8 hours of sleep behind me and no jet lag.

Suddenly, the woman who had talked to me earlier was in the aisle next to me again. She informed me that I was in fact in seat 25G. Well crap - I had to move. I picked up my bags and moved them to the row in front of me. The teenage boy stood up, too. I moved one row ahead to my proper seat and was getting resettled when suddenly a young Egyptian woman sat down beside me. She said hello to me and I responded, but I was slightly surprised. What happened to the boy? I looked around and saw him about 4 rows behind where we originally had been. I guess he was not supposed to be in row 24 after all. I began to settle again and get comfortable, covering myself once again with the blanket. It was already freezing in the cabin. I reached up and turned my air vent off. The Egyptian girl stood up and took something out of her carry on bag in the overhead. It was a sweatshirt. One of those thick and snugly ones that feels best when you put it on straight out of the dryer. Watching her put her sweatshirt on, I suddenly realized I had not worn a long sleeve shirt even though I had planned to. I also suddenly realized that even with the airline blanket over me - I was still freezing.

I turned to the girl and told her I wished I had brought a sweatshirt, too. She gave me her airline blanket and told me she would ask for another. When one of the flight attendants passed by she asked for another blanket and was told there were no more. I offered to give her blanket back but she insisted I keep it. Not only was she nice - she had been smart enough to bring a long sleeve shirt. Now I had 2 paper-thin blankets covering me and I was still freezing. We had not even left the ground yet. Only 12 more hours to go. It was going to be a long flight.

The meal was served and the movie was starting. My seat mate and I took out our headphones and plugged them in. No sound. We tried all channels and the volume but still nothing. A flight attendant told us they had to reset the sound. I checked back a few times while I was eating, but there was still nothing. Was it just our seats or did the whole plane have no sound? After I finished eating, I chatted with my seatmate for a while until we were both tired. I tried to watch the movie with no sound. I can't read lips or the Arabic subtitles so I just imagined what the actors were saying. Eventually, I fell asleep.


  1. Oh shucks.
    sorry you had to freeze.
    I can only imagine how miserable you must have been.
    Tired and cold. Yuck.
    Hope you enjoy your time at home though :)!!

  2. I also had a terminal incident when I went to fly to Oz. It clearly said on my eticket that I needed to be in terminal 2, but when I got there, there was no check in desk for my airline. I asked at the info desk and was told that I in fact needed to be in terminal 3. I showed her my eticket and she said my airline changed terminals three weeks ago. So I had to hightail it over there with all my extremely heavy bags. I was not impressed!

  3. Hope you have a great time back at Home OFG. and am sure that the trip will be worth it wehter you slept or not